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A Little Intelligence On Artificial Intelligence

A few months back, I shared my first audio post.  It was incredibly well received.  In that I enjoyed it and other people (probably) listened to it.  With such a successful start, how could I go wrong returning to the medium?

I read a lot of industry publications.  Probably too many.  But that means a win for you, my reader, since you glean the best of that time spent!  If trending articles don’t mention Millennials or how to maximize your social media presence, they’re discussing the brave new world of AI, Artificial Intelligence.  Even on my blog, the 2nd most popular post is about AI.  Here’s the degree of impact it stands to make for the industry: Everything you research or decide with a person will be done, faster, more reliably, with a computer system.  So, a big deal.

We’re not talking T-1000s in your branches (though they would be formidable security guards).  Nor does it have anything to do with the AI advances you hear Elon Musk warning us against.  For financial institutions, AI is simply a software system that can dive into a ton of data (that you already have) and make accurate risk and other determinations.  It’s nothing new for your credit union, only doing the same thing better and faster.  While serving your members anywhere, on their terms.

Of course, since this is an audio post, stop reading and just push play!

If, after listening, you have more questions about AI (which you should), feel free to leave them in the comments below or contact me directly.  I can provide a number of references to companies doing all of these things today within the financial world.  Are they a fit for your institution?  That’s for you to decide.  But I will say one thing with certainty: AI technologies will become the de-facto determination platforms for most company decisions in the near future.

PS – AI isn’t just for financial institutions.  It’s going beyond and helping serve the unbanked around the world.  Here’s an example of a company seeking to provide credit for the developing world.  Their system uses 10,000 data points on each person, collected by their phone app only (texts, contacts, and much more) to determine if they are credit worthy in 10 minutes or less.  No credit bureau, no credit risk agent, nothing.  Can your credit union do that?  Because if not, there’s an AI tech which might be a fit (Disclosure: I’ve interacted with one of their team members).

Image credit: Giphy (Terminator 2, but you, an honorable geek, already knew that!)

Strategy for the Future…and Today

“Our competitors don’t stand a chance,” goes through your head as you step out of the shower. Hey, aren’t all your best ideas conceived between shampoo and conditioner?

Write it down. Draw out a cost/benefit analysis (SMART). Share it with others. Edit, improve. It doesn’t even matter what your idea was. Remember, “a dream without a plan is just a wish.” – Katherine Paterson

As a technologist and futurist (I look to new technologies and assess how our society will evolve in coming years), I view ideas as the root of our growth. So don’t stop dreaming! Just ensure it makes sense in today’s world.

Take, for example, hydrogen fuel-cell cars. If you’re not familiar with the concept, that’s ok. They are really new. I mean, only a few exist…new. Given the right technology improvements, policy decisions, cost-scaling, and marketing, it can be the holy grail of clean transportation. Your tailpipe would emit water. That’s it. And the compressed hydrogen the vehicle uses could be made using renewable energy.

Toyota showed us a glimpse of that possible future with the Mirai, a concept vehicle running on compressed hydrogen with range in the hundreds of miles. Refueling can be done in a few minutes at a compatible hydrogen station, and you’re on your way.

So what’s stopping us from switching to this obviously better fuel source? No harmful emissions, no oil, clean energy made here…let’s do it! Not so fast. Barring a few stations in California (and others scattered around the country) there’s nowhere to refuel the vehicle. Our current fueling infrastructure was built over the course of a century and would take years (not to mention billions of dollars) to match with hydrogen. Impossible to overcome? No, just something essential to consider.

Back to your shower idea. Turns out, it is industry-changing: your staff, focus groups, even sampled members agree. Using the hydrogen vehicle example, here are some questions you need to ask:

  • Is it ahead of its time or your competition?
  • Can it run the risk of being a non-starter?
  • Does it cost you time and money with little short and unpredictable long-term benefits?
  • Are you willing to build out the figurative fueling infrastructure?

A few months ago, I suggested having an R&D budget for your institution. Depending on the answers to those questions, your idea may be best passed along to this division. That way, when you are ready to make it happen, the hard work of development is already done. And you can still crush your competition!

tl;dr (Summary) – It’s great to be ahead of your competition and have the “early mover” advantage, but there is also a danger in pursuing a strategy/solution that doesn’t make it. Must have a strategy for today and tomorrow, with how you plan to get from A (the way it’s done now) to B (your super-duper amazing solution).

Aside: Yes, it’s a click-bait image.  But it’s a puppy, in a bath!

Geeks Make the Impossible Possible

“If we can dream it, we can do it!”

Millions of people experienced those words as they rode my favorite theme park ride: Horizons in Epcot.

While the attraction is relegated to memory, pieces of it will always live on. If you are in line for Mission: Space, you may notice the badge in the center of the spinning station; it is the Horizons logo. In true Disney nerd fashion, I may or may not have the ride soundtrack and narration in my music library. And I ride Soarin’ for the orange scent borrowed from Horizons.

The ride was a unique challenge for the time. Imagineers were tasked with creating an experience tailored to the preferences and, well, dreams, of the guests. But each ride vehicle had to take the same track and finish at the exact same time. The idea was to provide this choice as the ride went on, not before boarding, so the attraction had to adapt to your whims.

How did the Imagineers make the impossible possible? Taking advice from their own attraction’s narration, they dreamed big. Upon Choosing your Tommorow Simulation (on a touchscreen appearing out of nowhere on the ride vehicle), you were sent into a future world of sights, movements, and sound. They decided on unifying the music and synchronizing the video experiences to each other. That way, everyone finished their own ride at the same time. No temporal distortions here.

This was in the 80s, when technologies powering your iPad were dreams seen only in sci-fi. But that’s what made it real, those dreams, fulfilled by a strong desire to make the future better.

Your credit unions began as a group of people pooling together their funds for the benefit of the community. What would they dream for tomorrow?

“I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse” – Walt Disney

Image from Horizons1 dedication to the Horizons attraction

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